Local Area and History of St Joseph's, Shooters Hill


(This History should be read in conjunction
with the chronological version)

Our Church began not as a Roman Catholic Church but as a Bible Christian Chapel.  It was opened on Thursday 13th January 1887 at 11am.  The work on the site had begun some fourteen months before and, although immense difficulty had been met with in getting a sure foundation, it was brought to an entirely satisfactory conclusion.  The foundations alone had cost upwards of £700 and the total cost, including land and an organ came to £4000.

On the opening day, despite intense cold and dense fog, a warm and appreciative congregation attended the two services at 11am and 3pm.  Later in the adjoining Hall at 5pm about 200 persons sat down to well spread tables for tea.  After tea they were entertained by some choice pieces of sacred music on the new organ.

Earlier in 1885 a Mission in China had been opened and it was decided to place a memorial stone in the wall of the new Church at the tower end commemorating this event.  That stone and a number of other stones are still there.

In July 1970 the Bible Christian Methodists had moved from their Chapel having opened a new Church at the top of Burrage Road.  The disused building had been offered to the Diocese and it was purchased by Canon Ronald Pepper, the Parish Priest of St. Peter's Woolwich for £10,000.  The property and keys were handed over on 3rd August 1970.

On 11th October, 1970, the first Holy Mass was offered, in St. Joseph's Hall and Mass continued to be said in the Hall as the Church needed extensive repairs and renovation.  These were completed in 1972.  It is thought from the recollections of elderly parishioners that the Organ was on what is now the Sanctuary and was moved to its present position on the right hand side of the Church and if one looks carefully there is just a trace of a large arch high up on the left hand side of the Sanctuary perhaps the organ was set into this archway.  It is known that the benches were stripped down and re-varnished which suggests (unconfirmed) that they may be the original benches.  There was also a gateway into the Church grounds on the corner of Paget Rise which has been closed up (exact date not known), however the path which led from the gateway can still be seen.

St. Joseph's was still part of St. Peter's Parish  and when changes were made at St. Peter's in 1971, the Testa or sounding board which had been above the pulpit at St. Peter's was placed above the Altar at St. Joseph's and is still there.  Part of the removed Altar rails from St Peter's were used to form a rail around the Lectern at St. Joseph's.

On the 4th October 1972 the Church was officially opened by His Grace, Archbishop Cyril Cowderoy who offered Holy Mass in the evening.  The Mayor of Woolwich, and a number of the previous Methodist congregation attended.  The Methodist Minister, Rev. C. Warren, read the first Reading.  This was followed by refreshments in the Hall.  A congregation of over 400 soon built up.  The Church had four sisters who after many years of devoted service to the Parish left to return to their Mother House in Canada.

On the 1st September 1976 St. Joseph's became a Parish in its own right.  The first Parish Priest was Fr. Michael Clifton.  A farewell party was held for Fr. David Maher who had served St. Joseph's from St. Peter's.  Fr. Clifton was inducted on the 22nd September 1976, and the Parish was visited by His Grace, Archbishop Michael Bowen on 3rd November 1977.

In 1978 Fr. Clifton who had been living at 3, Donaldson Road moved to 38, Paget Rise.  The Herbert Hospital was closed and the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital was opened.

In 1979 Fr. Clifton left the Parish, Father Michael Chapman took over and he was inducted on the 4th October 1979.  The service was conducted by Bishop Charles Henderson.

In 1981 a new presbytery at 135 Herbert Road was acquired.  It was badly in need of repair.

In 1981 Fr. Chapman was transferred to Cranbrook and the Parish was taken over by Fr. John Madden whose induction was on 27th May 1981, Bishop Henderson officiated.

In 1988 Fr. Madden was transferred to Beckenham and Fr. Joseph Whooley took over.

Between 1988 and 1998 the Lectern and Altar rails which had been brought from St. Peter's were removed and replaced by the current modern wooden Lectern.  The centre double doors at the back of the Church were created to avoid difficulties with Funerals, Weddings and Processions generally.  The whole Church was carpeted and the Bench arrangement changed from a centre block with two side blocks and two side aisles, to the present two side aisles and one middle aisle.  Because of the different bench lengths the middle aisle is slightly off centre.

In 1998 Fr. Whooley left the Parish and Fr. James Kirby took over.

In 2005 and 2006 a fund raising campaign was started and a new kitchen and toilet for disabled persons were provided to conform with new legislation.  This is continuing with the redecoration of the Hall and eventually the Church.

By January 2007 the small Hall was painted, a new floor laid and new furniture purchased. Also in January 2007 a Parish Web-site was created.

January 2007